Vikings secondary confident against Brees

At least two members of the Vikings secondary like their chances against one of the NFL's top quarterbacks, Drew Brees, on Monday night. See why they say that, despite one of them being a target of at least fan criticism. Plus, get analysis on Adrian Peterson and information on Robert Smith and Matt Birk.

The Vikings secondary appears to be improving, but despite facing Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, their Monday night game against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints could present the best passing challenge Minnesota's defense will face all year.

The test is large, but the confidence sounds like it is keeping pace among the defensive backs.

"It's a big challenge. Very explosive offense, and the guy pulling the trigger is a vertical-type thrower, but patient enough to dink and dunk things. The speedy receivers that they have on the outside are a deep threat as big as we've seen this year. It's a big challenge for us, but in saying that I know I do relish the challenge because there should be more opportunities than what we've seen this year," safety Darren Sharper said.

In three of their four games this year, the Vikings have been able to limit the opposing offenses to less than 200 yards net passing, but Drew Brees entered Week 5 as the top-rated quarterback in the NFC.

"We disguise our coverages, but he reads our coverages very well. When you've got a quarterback that can read coverages, he can exploit defenses very easily," said cornerback Cedric Griffin. "Our (defensive backs) and our pass rush, we've been doing a great job of eliminating big plays and really coming down on our pass rush this year. We're going to continue to do that."

Griffin has been the target of a number of quarterbacks in the early going this year, but he doesn't believe it's because of his coverage or that teams are intentionally going after him.

"I don't necessarily believe that. I just believe that playing the right corner, you get a lot of free-access balls because a lot of quarterbacks are right-handed, so their first read is to my side. That's the challenge and I accept it," he said. "I played right corner in college and I knew a lot of balls were coming my way. I'll have to keep standing up. They're not really getting those big plays on me. They're just getting those 6- and 7-yard curls and outs."

Eliminating the big play is key, Griffin said repeatedly. His insistence on that probably is passed down from defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.

"He's done a good job of not giving up plays over the top," Frazier said of Griffin. "Some people have caught some passes underneath, some outs and some curls, and with the exception with that one play with (the Colts' Anthony) Gonzalez, he's done a good job of not allowing big plays over the top of him. That's what we ask him to do in our scheme. As long as he does that and tackles well – which he is a very good tackler, that's one of his strengths and we need that in what we do – then he'll be fine."

While Griffin is focused on not allowing the big play over the top, he also admits it can be frustrating when a quarterback continues to play it safe with the short passes.

"It's definitely frustrating because me, as a corner and as a competitor, I want to make every play, I want to make every interception or pass breakup, but it doesn't come like that. You have to be patient, you have to wait your turn because when they do come, they come in bunches. I do believe they will come."

So does Sharper, despite the fact that Brees has a 72.3 completion percentage and has eight touchdown passes against four interceptions. But Sharper thinks the Saints' desire to get the ball deep will help his playmaking ability.

"He's been making some plays down the field against some guys that are allowing him to do that pretty much. I'm going to try my best to not allow him to have that high of a completion percentage rate the down the field," said Sharper, who was asked if he was insinuating that Brees has had success because of a lack of quality defenses faced.

"Take it for what it is. If he goes down the field with those deep routes, the completion percentage will not be as high."

STOPPING THE BREES

Like Manning, Brees has proved to be hard to sack this year. He has taken only four of them in four games.

"We can still get pressure on him. If we don't get a sack on him, hitting him and hurrying him and knocking him around a little bit are big keys for us because that affects every quarterback," Sharper said. "But the reason he hasn't been sacked much is that he's so smart and knows how to get the ball out of his hands."

Griffin said that being too aggressive and trying to jump a route would only spell trouble.

"When you're aggressive and jumping routes, that's when you get big plays over your head," he said. "As far as interceptions, it's really the quarterback's mistake. You can't go and assume he's running this route or that route because that's when you mess around and miss a tackle and he goes for a 50-yard scamper or he throws the ball over your head. … An interception is a quarterback mistake, it's not a cornerback's great play."

NOTES

  • Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was selected as one of the top roller-coaster players in the NFL so far this year by FoxSports.com's Alex Marvez.

    "He has produced more consistently this season than during a feast-or-famine rookie campaign in 2007. But until the Vikings improve their passing attack, Peterson's weekly output could fluctuate as defenses stack the line of scrimmage to stop the run," Marvez wrote. "Peterson also continues to struggle staying healthy, which was an issue during his injury-plagued college career at Oklahoma."

  • Sirius NFL Radio reported that former Vikings running back Robert Smith is among a list of candidates to replace the late Gene Washington as the executive director of the NFL Players Association.

  • Adam Caplan of Scout.com reports that the Vikings and center Matt Birk haven't had any discussions about extending the Pro Bowler's contract, which is set to expire after the 2008 season. Birk is hoping to continue his career in Minnesota, but there haven't been any substantive talks in over a year.


  • Viking Update Top Stories